Three is a very popular number in the entertainment world. There were three Stooges; the Schoolhouse Rock folks did a song called Three is a Magic Number and even William Shakespeare favoured the number, giving King Lear three daughters, and writing about the three witches in Macbeth. This summer there seems to be a revival in the importance of the number three at the movies, with no less than six threequels hitting the screens.
We’ve already seen Spider-Man 3 clean up, making $148 million on its opening weekend, with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Ocean’s Thirteen, The Bourne Ultimatum and Rush Hour 3 soon to come. By August we really will know once and for all whether “three times is a charm” or not.
The latest franchise to come back for a third time is Shrek. The giant green ogre, voiced by Toronto’s Mike Myers, is now happily married to his ogre bride, the Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz). When her father, the frog king of Far Far Away dies he anoints Shrek as the next king. The trouble is Shrek doesn’t want the responsibility that comes along with the job. He sets off, with his companions Puss ‘N’ Boots (Antonio Banderas) and Donkey (Eddie Murphy), on a quest to find the other living heir to the throne, Arthur (Justin Timberlake). Arthur, or Artie as he prefers to be called isn’t exactly king material, but reluctantly agrees to become the leader. In the meantime the exiled Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) has returned with an army of fairy tale villains to forcibly take the throne. Shrek and his pals—Pinocchio, the Ginger Bread Man and the Three Little Pigs—must save the kingdom and ensure that the rightful king sits on the throne.
Shrek the Third doesn’t do anything that we haven’t already seen in the first two instalments. More fart jokes, more of Puss ‘N’ Boots dewy cat eyes and more pop culture references and even more recycled pop songs from the likes of Smashmouth. What we don’t get is enough funny lines from the two characters who really carried the first two movies—Shrek and Donkey. Their roles this time has been watered down, perhaps to make way for the flood of new characters.
There are laughs here, but with those laughs comes a sense of déjà vu, like we’ve seen all this before. Call it the curse of the threequel. The first Shrek was magical—funny, fresh and memorable. The second instalment less so, and, because familiarity breeds contempt, (well, maybe not contempt, but at least tedium) the third even less.
Not that the sameness of Shrek the Third to its predecessors will matter to young kids who tend to enjoy watching the same thing over and over. For adults though, Shrek the Third may seem like that third helping of desert you had at Christmas dinner. It tasted good while you ate it, but in retrospect perhaps you wish you had stopped at two.